Have you ever been in a bouncy castle? Yeah? Were you able to stand? To walk unimpeded? To make progress without continuously falling down or stumbling? No? Why? Because the point of a bouncy castle is that it is unstable. You’re supposed to fall down, roll around, and to bounce into the walls and each other. There’s no stability in a bouncy castle because there’s nothing stable about it. With a bouncy castle, all the bouncing to and fro, all of the falling down and getting trounced on is fun. Translated to real life, it’s anything but fun.
Welcome to the life of an abused spouse.
Abusers come in all different flavors, if you will. The fellowship of abusive spouses has among its members the unemployed and the wildly successful, the financially adept and the serial bankrupted, the entrepreneur and the hourly worker, the uneducated and the ultra educated, the atheist and the religious. The members may be rich or poor, country folks or city dwellers, men or, at times, women. The thing that binds them all together is a desire to control someone else, make them do their bidding, and to do it at any and all costs.
Abused spouses usually come in one flavor: The beaten down. Rich or poor, educated or not, it doesn’t matter in the end. Their lives have been hijacked by another and they are reduced to living in the equivalent of a bouncy castle. Their lives are full of swirling craziness. They have no stability. It’s not their fault but, nonetheless, they usually get the blame. By their spouses. By others.
It’s easy enough to stand by doing nothing to help and wonder why she (or he) doesn’t leave or why they put up with it. I’ve heard it suggested that, if an abused wife didn’t like being mistreated, she’d leave. In Christian circles, it’s far too often suggested that she must be “doing something” to cause her spouse (“such a good, godly man”) to lose his patience with her. I’ve heard folks say men who claim to be abused are obviously lying. Believe those things and you are buying into lies.
Let me ask you this: Could you walk through a bouncy castle with a soup tureen smack-to-the-brim full of hot soup with everybody bouncing around you crazy like and be able to stand upright and make unimpeded progress to the door without spilling it all over yourself and everyone else? Or even without spilling a drop? No? Why? Because it would be impossible. The whole idea that you could is ludicrous because the bouncy castle does not have a stable ground. With each step the whole thing wibbles and wobbles and you wibble and wobble right along with it. Thus, without a stable living environment, with no one whom they can trust, no one to believe in, no hope for tomorrow, the abused spouse tries, again and again, to make progress, only to be smacked down every single time. By their husband or their wife.
In some ways, every single abused spouse has their own individual story to tell. In other ways, all of the stories are strikingly similar. Whatever the details are, the thing those on the outside need to understand is that the life they lead isn’t one they are controlling. There is no stability in the life of someone who is being abused. They have no control, no hope, no normalcy. Their normalcy is your madness. Abusers make sure of that. Abused spouses are being lied to and about, fed hope and continuously having that hope snatched away. Often there is not enough money, no friends or support group. Far too often, because of what the abuse, the stress, the cruelty, does to the one being abused, the abuser comes to be seen as the stable one and the one who is being abused is treated as the abuser or at least as crazy.
Don’t judge what you don’t understand. If you’ve never walked in the steps of one who is being abused by the one who swore before God to love them and cherish them, you can’t possibly guess at what she/he is going through. Their lives are full of despair, fear, pain, and confusion. If they are parents, their pain is 1000% more because of the fear of what such a life is doing to their children. Unless you’ve been there, done that, don’t start telling them, don’t start telling me, that “if only” we’d do “thus and such” everything would be alright. It won’t, it never will, because abusers operate from a point of extreme self-interest and their lack of logical thought processes, their continued lies, their failures as spouses and in other areas of their lives, actually serve a purpose: to please themselves. They will do whatever it takes to maintain control of their spouses. Always have, always will.
Life with an abuser (be the abuse physical, emotional, financial, sexual, etc. or any combination thereof) will never be stable. It will never “make sense” because it doesn’t make sense. Abusers destroy. Abusers kill, sometimes physically and always the spirit. Abusers are extremely adept at making you believe that he’s the stable one while wrecking havoc on his victim. The victim of domestic abuse (or domestic violence) lives in an extremely sadistic, quite unstable, bouncy castle from which she cannot escape or at least, until now, hasn’t been able to. Many never do. Her husband, his wife, is bent on destroying them while telling them and everyone else how much they love them. She lives with someone who tells her she’s stupid, crazy, who curses her out, who destroys the things she loves best. Then he buys her roses. His abuser humiliates him daily, destroying any sense of self that he still holds onto. Then she tells him how handsome he is, how very sorry she is. Victims are isolated, blamed for things they didn’t do, accused of having affairs, attacked for daring to have any individual thought processes. And that’s on a good day.
You wouldn’t want to live this way, where swirling craziness is just a way of life, one you have no control of and little hope of ever escaping. Wouldn’t want to live with someone who tells you one thing one day then denies it the next day, calling you a liar in the process. With someone with whom you can never count on, can never believe, can never trust. For whom black is white and white is black. Someone bent on destroying you and all that you hold dear. Would you? No, of course not. Neither do they, but this is life. And many of them will never find a way of escape. That’s why the church needs to step up and learn about domestic abuse. It’s evil, it’s hiding in your town, in your office and, yes, even in your church. Abusers aren’t Christians, they aren’t even good people, but they are very adept at pretending to be. Just remember, good people never pretend to be bad but bad people often pretend to be good.
And remember one more thing: If someone in your church comes to you and tells you that she is being abused, believe her. She’s risking everything to come to you–even her life.